Nicole R. Fleetwood and Mabel O. Wilson will present at the Seminar in the Art and Material Culture of Africa and the African Diaspora. They will each give a short paper followed by a moderated conversation and Q&A session.
“Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration” (Nicole R. Fleetwood)

Marking Time
examines the impact of the carceral state on contemporary art and culture. Focusing on art made in US prisons and in collaboration with artists and activists across the nation, Dr. Fleetwood explores various aesthetic practices and media of incarcerated artists who use penal space, penal matter, and penal time to produce art about carcerality. Her presentation will discuss the archive of the visual culture of US prisons that she has amassed over the past decade. It will also consider the strategies and techniques that imprisoned artists employ to create visual documents about their captivity. Working with the meager supplies and under state punishment, imprisoned artists find ways to resist the brutality and isolation of prisons, as they cultivate radical modes of belonging and abolitionist visions.

“Can We Forget? A Memorial to Enslaved Laborers” (Mabel O. Wilson)

How does one remember contested histories, such as that of slavery, whose material evidence has been deliberately destroyed, whose traces may be “hidden in plain sight” to quote NMAAHC Founding Director Lonnie Bunch, or whose recollection may be still too painful? The Memorial for Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia wrestles with these questions in its remembrance of the pain of bondage and the dignity of an enslaved community, a commemoration that for many is experienced in slavery’s wake.


Nicole R. Fleetwood is a writer, curator, and professor of American Studies and Art History at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Her books are Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration (2020), On Racial Icons: Blackness and the Public Imagination (2015), and Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness (2011). She is co-editor of Aperture magazine’s “Prison Nation,” a special issue focusing on photography’s role in documenting mass incarceration, and co-curator of Aperture’s touring exhibition of the same title. Fleetwood has co/curated exhibitions and programs on art and mass incarceration at the Andrew Freedman Home, Aperture Foundation, Cleveland Public Library, Eastern State Penitentiary, MoMA PS1, Mural Arts Philadelphia, the Zimmerli Art Museum, and the Urban Justice Center. Her work has been supported by the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, NYPL’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, ACLS, Whiting Foundation, Denniston Hill Residency, Schomburg Center for Scholars-in-Residence, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the NEH.

Mabel O. Wilson is the Nancy and George E. Rupp Professor of Architecture and a professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University. She serves as the Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies. She has authored Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture (2017), Negro Building: African Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (2012), and the volume Race and Modern Architecture: From the Enlightenment to Today (2020) co-edited with Irene Cheng and Charles Davis. With her practice Studio &, she is a member of the architectural team that recently completed the Memorial to Enslaved African American Laborers at the University of Virginia. For MoMA, she is co-curator of the forthcoming exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America (February 2021).


This event will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 3 pm on the day of the event. This event will be live with automatic captions.